Is the $89 Kmart coffee machine worth buying?

Kmart is selling a super-cheap manual espresso machine and, well, it's not bad.

Dream machine or crime against coffee?

The crafty folk at Kmart have done it again, selling an eye-poppingly cheap manual espresso machine that'll sit on your kitchen bench looking cool and making coffee for just $89.

CHOICE put the Kmart Anko Espresso Coffee Machine to the test in our recent coffee machine reviews of both capsule and manual machines and found that it beat a $949 competitor (amongst others) on flavour, and it consistently pumped out good, hot coffees. 

So, is taking a chance on an el-cheapo coffee machine just playing with fire, or could this be the beginning of something brew-tiful? (Sorry.)

CHOICE verdict

The overall score we gave the Kmart Anko Espresso Coffee Machine is not far off (and in some cases higher than) the scores we've given to machines that are significantly more expensive.

Alongside pluses for good looks, taste and consistency of temperature, this machine does have its shortcomings and is not going to be the most solid appliance in your kitchen. 

But at that bargain price, it's tough to overlook as a contender.

The pros

  • Wins on flavour. In a blind taste test by our coffee taste testers (who are all professional baristas and industry experts), the Kmart machine received a score of 70% on the taste test, compared to the DeLonghi La Specialista which costs $949 and scored 65%. The taste test takes into account crema colour and thickness, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and aftertaste. "The actual flavour and aftertaste is pretty good," said our CHOICE coffee expert Matthew Gee.
  • It's really, really cheap. If you're a wannabe barista looking to tamp, extract and froth your way to caffeinated heaven at home, it doesn't get much cheaper than this. Of the manual espresso machines we've reviewed, the closest in price is the Sunbeam Piccolo Espresso machine at $119, with prices for other manual machines stretching into the thousands.
  • Reliably hot cuppas. If you've been known to guzzle two, three or four coffees in a row (hey, everyone's got their poison), you'll be pleased to know that this machine scored 80% on the consistency of coffee temperature over four consecutive cups. That's the same or better as some other significantly more expensive machines we've tested.
  • The 'would you want to display this on your kitchen bench' factor. Our answer is, yes. Even though it's made of plastic and die-cast aluminium alloy, it looks chic and modern, so wins for us on the style front. And if you're short on space, it's a compact machine that's easy to move around.

The cons

  • Not as easy to use. In the latest batch of espresso machines we tested, the Kmart machine scored the lowest in our 'Ease of use' category at 64%. CHOICE test co-ordinator Chantelle Dart says, "The machine is quite light and flimsy, and isn't as easy to use as some of the other models. It's a smaller model (so can't accommodate larger cups) and sits quite low on the bench, so you may have to bend down to see the controls and fit the group handle."
  • Fewer bells and whistles. You don't get the separate milk jug that's included with most other models, or a coffee grinder, so you'll need to buy those separately. There's also not a separate coffee tamper – you use the reverse end of the plastic measuring spoon provided, which can make it trickier to get the perfect tamping pressure.
  • Milk frothing and coffee delivery. The machine was given a relatively low score on the quality and ease of milk frothing (and was the lowest of the manual machines we've tested). "The steam wand doesn't extend out as far as it does in other machines, which can make frothing the milk a little trickier,"  says Chantelle. You also have to manually stop the coffee delivery – so you can't walk away from the machine while it fills up your cup.


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